Employee Trust: The Secret to Organizational Effectiveness
By: Mady Peterson
Organizational effectiveness unlocks productivity — but employee trust is the key.
Strong working relationships allow everyone to share insights, ask questions and do their best work without fear. To get that critical sense of safety, you have to know how to build trust within a team. Trust is a steadfast belief that individuals, managers and leaders are transparent with, care and value one another.
The positive effects of organizational care are built on this trust — engagement, inclusion and well-being all follow when there’s an open line of communication and sense of support between employees and leadership. At Limeade, we help companies earn it using the following strategies for building trust with employees below, because we know it leads directly to these three benefits.
3 reasons why employee trust and workplace performance rise together
Trust and communication lead in the workplace
A culture of trust in the workplace promotes team effectiveness, but that trust can’t happen without positive communication. In this sense, good team communication is both the chicken and the egg: You have to nurture it to establish a baseline of trust, and once you do, the two feed each other.
Trust has been linked to higher levels of organizational commitment, intention to remain with the organization and active interest in the well-being of the organization. With higher levels of trust, individuals feel more loyal to their organization, communicate more openly, share more knowledge, solve more problems and implement more innovative and proactive ideas.
Well-being and engagement follows trust between leaders and employees
Because trust is the cornerstone of positive relationships, it plays a huge role in individual well-being. Positive relationships provide us with social support and feelings of belonging, which are key for creating a feeling of inclusion. Humans are inherently social beings, and we need this inclusion and these positive, fulfilling, reliable and supportive relationships to establish psychological and physical well-being.
A well-being and engagement report uncovered cultural attributes that matter most in driving cultures that support well-being. Two of these attributes were trust in management and trust in employees. It must go both ways — a lack of trust between management and employees on either side will undermine the sense of support and the ease with which people can do their jobs.
How trusting employees supports better performance
Trust supports the strong communication and sense of well-being needed to establish an effective team. And ultimately, that’s the basis of an effective organization.
With trust, individual, team and organizational performance all improve. It enables team members to work together more effectively and to allocate key resources and energy more efficiently. When there are trust issues in the workplace, members lose sight of team goals and focus instead on personal interests. Quickly, team members turn defensive, withholding information and consuming resources that could have otherwise been spent on team goal attainment.
How to build employee trust and organizational effectiveness
We know the importance of trust in the workplace, now we just have to go about building it. To do that, you need to involve everyone. Building trust in leadership is just as important as building trust with employees — and both have to be done in conjunction with building an organizational culture of trust.
To work toward all three at once, here are a few ways individuals, managers and organizations can each work to develop trust in the workplace.
Building trust and respect as individual employees
1. Communicate regularly. Communication with teammates is a must when it comes to trust — both formal and informal. Regular team check-ins combined with chatting online and impromptu catchups about work- and non-work-related topics will help develop the interpersonal ties that real relationships are built on.
2. Respect others. You can’t have trust without mutual respect, concern and support. Maintaining a standard of respect and support when communicating and working with coworkers will help individuals to feel more psychologically safe and included at work. Practice using inclusive language, recognizing others for their contributions, or asking for others’ thoughts, opinions and contributions to establish a baseline feeling of welcoming. If you see anyone talking in a disrespectful way — either knowingly or unknowingly — call them out on it before it can infect the team dynamic.
How managers build trust with employees
1. Serve your employees. Managers can earn trust first by focusing on what matters most to their teams. Serving others, building a sense of community, emphasizing teamwork, sharing power — these are all ways to prove that your people matter to you. Same with advocating for employees’ welfare, addressing team conflicts and paying individual attention to employee needs. All of these behaviors build trust through actions, not words, creating a more durable sense of safety.
2. Maintain moral standards. Trusted leaders are ethical leaders. You have to show that you walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Ethical leaders follow the rules that they set, and they communicate those ethical standards to employees and hold employees accountable when those standards aren’t met.
3. Foster norms for trust. Managers have the power to create spaces and tasks that encourage teamwork. Develop norms around trust and collaboration by incorporating more teamwork and interdependent tasks in people’s day-to-day responsibilities.
Using communication and culture to create trust in organizations
1. Establish a culture of trust. At an organizational level, businesses can set the tone for communication, collaboration and respect. Organizational culture can help organizations create trust in the workplace. For companies with mission statements and brand values, make sure these core interpersonal behaviors are high on the list. Consider creating organic trust-building opportunities by providing spaces and events for employees to develop interpersonal relationships, to advocate for and ensure inclusive practices, and to participate in organizational decision making.
2. Create open lines of communication. Organizations can foster trust by encouraging communication within and across teams and departments. Provide clear communication channels between leadership and front-line employees, as well as the tools and technology needed for employees to communicate with each other easily. Then, prove that you’re using them. Show that leadership is listening by repeating back to employees what they say — and by fulfilling their requests.
Developing trust with employees to benefit everyone
Yes, it’s good to create a culture of trust within your organization, but it’s also good business. Employees who can be open and honest with each other and with leadership will spend more time working toward the common good and less time trying to guard against perceived threats to their own future. On top of that, they’ll stay with your company longer, work together more effectively and efficiently, promote positive internal team behaviors and communication and more.
Organizational efficiency is a big task involving systems design, role rethinking and host of other wholesale innovations to how your company operates. But none of it works without company trust. Start there, and you’ll have a team that’s up to the challenge of tackling the rest.